Boris Groys remarks in The Communist Postscript (first published in German in 2006 and translated into English in 2010) that we in the West condemn communism for turning humans into “automata” and “machines.” He writes, “In Western films dating from the Cold War in which communists from the East are represented, it is striking that communists generally appear as robots, as specters, as inhuman, internally empty, bodiless machines.”.
Groys enters right in the middle of capitalism’s distortion of communism. When read in haste or with suspicion, Groys’ arguments can easily be dismissed as schematic. The introduction hits the reader hard with Groys’ distinctions, which he makes so clear that one can graph them. He writes, “The economy functions in the medium of money. It operates with numbers. Politics functions in the medium of language…the communist revolution is the transcription of society from the medium of money to the medium of language.” The medium of a capitalist society, he continues, is money and numbers; therefore, language is not what shapes it. According to Groys, it is futile to critique a capitalist society with words because the criticism does not operate in the same medium as capitalism itself. Reading polemical statements like these, one’s mind floods with examples that might counter Groys’s firm beliefs. But his book unfolds at rapid speed, only on a few occasions stopping to give specific examples, and even these are not cited in depth or with much context.
If there is one thing that a non-specialist can glean from reading this book, it is Groys’ nostalgia for communism, and his belief that a society does not have to be capitalist to function. While one may not fully understand Groys’s theories about the total “linguistification” of society, or about paradox as the basis of rule, Groys provides openings when he compares communism to Christianity, which, he says, both reach towards a universal philosophy. He is insistent on the non-failure of communism, in that because it stipulates a society without a market, it cannot fail economically, and also that the transition of Russia and China to state capitalism does not indicate the fall of communism but rather its full realization. By the end of the book, Groys breathes life back into communism’s “inhuman, bodiless machines” by posing the idea that a return to a society organized by language and philosophy (he calls communism the ‘kingdom of philosophy’) is probable, for language is more universal and democratic than money.